Expert Tips for Cold Weather Golfing
Golf expert Carson Makin shares his top tips for getting the most out of cold weather rounds.
While some may be fortunate enough to live in an area where polo-and-shorts golfing can be done year-round, most of the country has to get creative with how to keep up on with golf swings in the winter. While many people move indoors to practice on simulators and nets, the best thing for your game (and the most fun!) is to bundle up and keep things on the course. Here is my advice on getting the most out of those cold weather rounds.
Get in the Proper Mindset
Before you step foot on the course, it’s important to put yourself in the right state of mind. Winter golfing is grueling—enough so that many would not consider it fun or worth the trouble. But if you love the game enough to make it out there in glacial conditions, then make sure to get your money’s worth by getting some good practice in and having fun doing it. The chances of setting your personal best when it’s chilly are pretty slim; keep this in mind. Manage your expectations so you don’t walk off the course furious because you played above your handicap. Keep your goals realistic.
Dress Warm in Layers, Layers, Layers!
Most of us have been told that we need to layer our clothing in the cold, time and time again, but for once (at least in my case) let’s follow that advice.
Keep the warmer stuff closest to your body. Avoid cotton, as it breathes too well and allows cold air in. UnderArmour clothes (or a cheaper polyester blend) work great, especially in a turtleneck style. I like to then throw another long sleeve shirt and loose-fitting polo, or a quarter-zip, on top.
For your lower body, long underwear or leggings with some thick golf pants over them will help keep your legs warm. Golf shoes are usually pretty well-insulated, but thick socks never hurt. I personally like to wear my rain gear during most cold weather rounds, as it not only keeps you dry but it also helps block the wind.
Winter golf gloves are available, but I honestly don’t like the feel of them. I stick to my normal golf glove and will use winter gloves or mittens on top throughout the round, taking them off for my shots. I always keep a set of hand warmers in my pocket, too. Finally, don’t forget that a lot of heat will escape from your head. Cover your noggin and ears with a good beanie!
You can always take off a layer if you’re getting too warm, so don’t be afraid to throw on more than you think you might need. Sometimes I’ll even bring a heavy coat and take it off before every hit, just so it doesn’t affect my swing. It’s important to find the right articles of clothing that allow you to still swing freely while staying warm.
Don’t Overthink Equipment
There are those out there that claim you need to play different balls, keep them warm, do certain things to prep your clubs, etc., but most of this advice doesn’t hold true. The cold will affect your golf ball, but there’s no way around it. Rule 14-3/13.5 strictly prohibits warming your golf ball during a round. And though it may seem like a good idea, don’t tuck a few balls in the same pocket as your hand warmers. There’s no rule against having a ball in your pocket and letting your body heat do the job, but it’s not going to make much of a difference. Golf Laboratories performed a test a while back that shows that your golf ball will adopt the outside temperature almost instantly. You can swap your normal ball out with one that is softer with a lower compression rating, but the vast majority of amateurs won’t notice any difference.
My only other cold weather tip regarding gear is this: treat your clubs like your pets and bring them in at night. I know it may be convenient to leave them in your trunk the night before a round, or even make the trunk their permanent home so you always have them when the desire to play arises. But this can be damaging to your clubs, especially if you have steel shafts. Metal will expand and contract with changes in temperature, and over time this can weaken the materials. Frigid temperatures can also cause your grips to become slick and crack. I can assume you don’t want to spend the time and money to have any of this repaired, and having a club break out on the course is a sure-fire way to ruin any round.
Cold Weather Strategy
Golfing in not-so-ideal conditions is a great opportunity to work on your game. The winter cold is often accompanied with high winds, courses in bad condition, and shots from different distances than what you may be used to. You may find yourself putting more thought into your shots and getting more creative than you would on a normal sunny day. Even when playing for practice, it’s always fun to make some great scores.
There are a couple rules of thumb I like to follow when getting in a winter round. Cold air is denser, which creates more drag on the ball. Drag equates to less distance on your shots. The fine people at Trackman did their thing and have uncovered that you will lose one yard of distance for every ten degree drop in temperature. By that theory, the difference between an 80 degree day in July and a 40 degree afternoon in November will be around four yards. Your standard 8-iron shot now becomes an easy 7-iron.
Compound that with restricted movement from your layers and tight muscles from the cold, and you’re going to want to plan on a full club of difference. However, working in the opposite direction, cold ground is hard ground. Put as much spin on the ball as you like, but it simply will not stick like it would on a warm day. Plan for your shots to have more roll than normal.
Shots to Avoid in Cold Weather
As I touched on earlier, cold weather can be a great opportunity to practice some shots and strategies you normally won’t see in your standard 18-hole day. However, there are some shots you are going to want to avoid. You’re not going to be able practice them correctly in the cold, which defeats the purpose. Practicing shots incorrectly also leads to bad habits becoming permanent. On top of that, it’s going to show up on your scorecard, so why bother?
Here’s my advice: avoid the shots that require a lot of little muscles, timing, and fluidity. The cold weather will influence all of these to a degree. Flop shops and shots from the bunker (yes, avoid the bunkers even more) will become that much harder to pull off when the temperature drops. Avoid power shots as well. Your muscles will be tight and swinging harder can throw off your swing completely. When in doubt, club up.
My final piece of advice is to leave the golf cart parked. I’m a cart guy myself, and you’ll rarely catch me walking the course. In the cold weather, however, it’s a must. It keeps your body warm, blood flowing, and muscles loose. You’ll play much better!
Braving the bitter cold for a round at your favorite course can be a daunting task. If you prepare properly and come with the right attitude, however, it can be a rewarding endeavor. It can keep your game from gathering too much dust and send you into the next season ready to cut some strokes from your handicap. Plus, the old cliché holds true: a bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at the office.